Seventy frogs whose habitats range from South America to Africa to Illinois have taken up temporary residence at Chicago's Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. They're part of the traveling exhibit "Frogs: A Chorus of Color" that aims to teach visitors about how diverse the animals are and what challenges they face.
"They breathe through their skin, they drink through their skin," said Allison Sacerdote-Velat, curator of herpetology at the nature museum. "Every toxin, every pollutant that's in the environment can potentially impact their survival and that's telling us about the quality of our water."
"Frogs: A Chorus of Color"Location: Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago, (773) 755-5100, naturemuseum.org
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; through Jan. 22
Admission: $6-$9; free for children under 3 and members
Frogs have been around since the age of the dinosaurs, but they are now experiencing major population declines as a result of disease, loss of habitat and climate change. The museum is hoping guests will not only become more interested in frogs but try to help them by joining The Calling Frog Survey, which the museum has been running since 2014. Visitors can sign up to learn how to identify the unique noises made by local frogs to help track populations in a way similar to the butterfly program the museum has run for 30 years.
"Frog conservation is part of our work and we want to expose people to the species in our area and get people involved in citizen science programs," Sacerdote-Velat said.
Along with adding a collection of local frogs, the Nature Museum also expanded on the traveling exhibit with a display of photographs and preserved specimens from the permanent collection. For an even better understanding of the animals' inner workings, you can view the skeleton of a West African goliath frog, the biggest frog in the world, or conduct a virtual dissection -- a new educational tactic that lets biology students learn without harming animals.
The exhibit also teaches the many ways that frogs have adapted to their environments. Species on display include poison dart frogs, which get their poison from eating insects but are harmless in captivity, and the massive African bullfrog, which eats rodents. Another highlight is the ornate horned frog, which is nicknamed the Pac-Man frog because its mouth makes up almost half its body. Colored to blend in with moss or leaves, it will sit still and wait to eat anything that comes near it.
Kids can get engaged with a variety of hands-on elements. They can spin a zoetrope to watch an animation of a frog jumping and test their own leaping skills against various frog species -- some of which are capable of jumping up to 12 feet. Kids can also pretend to be a gliding frog by donning a costume and propelling themselves on a miniature zip line.
"People think frogs jump but some burrow, some swim, some glide," Sacerdote-Velat said.
Visitors can listen to the wide variety of noises frogs make by pressing buttons and creating their own chorus of croaks and chirps. Other interactive panels feature audio that describes the diverse ways frogs care for their young, ranging from the pouch the female horned marsupial frog uses to carry its eggs to Darwin's frog, a species where tadpoles develop in their father's vocal sac.
"They have so many tricks to their persistence," Sacerdote-Velat said.